Alsatian answer from LOC

Ciarán Ó Duibhín ciaran at
Wed Feb 27 01:47:15 CET 2008

Rebecca S. Guenther was quoted as writing:
... But if some may consider "Alsatian" to be an alternate name by
which they refer to the language coded as "gsw", then we would add it. We
are not certain that indeed this is the case, so would ask that you give
evidence that "Alsatian" is used by some group of people as a language
name rather than the name of a dialect within that language.

While I am not so strongly against adding "Alsatian" as an alternative name
for gsw as I was earlier
, I stand by the argument in my third point there that the kind of evidence
reasonably asked for by Ms Guenther is (as far as I know) lacking.

Certainly in English, "Alsatian" is not used to mean "gsw as a whole", but
only that part of gsw spoken in the territory of Alsace.

Is the term "Alsatian" not used in the same way in other languages? Even in
Alsace itself, would anyone say (the equivalent in French or in Alsatian of)
"the Alsatian-speaking regions of Switzerland and Germany"?  To my mind,
this last question is the key one, and an analogy with Castilian is valid
only if the answer to it is "yes".

If the answer is "no", we should not try to persuade LOC that Alsatian means
the same thing as gsw to anyone, but we should instead try to convince them
(and ourselves) that a name applied to a geographically-restricted subset of
a language can be acceptable as an alternative name for the language in
these circumstances.

The circumstances surrounding Alsatian differ from the normal dialect
situation - again, as far as I can judge - in that the name Alsatian is
used, not so much because of any linguistic difference from other forms of
gsw, but more as a result of political sensitivities, to distance it from
other forms of gsw.  (Balkan analogies?)  It is those sensitivities which
consciously restrict the name to Alsace, and a good example of them is
provided by the French document referenced by Stéphane, which correctly
calls Alsatian an "indigenous language of France", but never once hints that
it is related to German, and actually - in its tables of languages spoken in
France - contrasts it with "German" by which I assume it means
non-indigenous German.  Recognizing those political sensitivities - and it
matters not whether we agree with them - gives just a glimmer of
justification for raising Alsatian to the level of an alternative name for

It is arguable whether the name "Swiss German" would pass Ms Guenther's test
either.  In principle its situation is similar to that of Alsatian, though
it has a much greater degree of practical plausibility.  I would see
Alemannic as the only fully satisfactory name for gsw.

Ciarán Ó Duibhín

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